Final meeting in Stuttgart: five startups present initial functional prototypes
SEP Award: TOP 12 Corporate Startup Stars and special award for open and transparent co-development approach
The innovation trail continues: plans to stage the Challenge again in 2018
Stuttgart. From the initial idea to fully operational prototypes in the space of barely a year – that calls for the effective, systematic pooling of resources and capacities. The almost 300 international entries received for the Startup adVANce Challenge organised by Mercedes-Benz Vans were whittled down first of all to 92 and then to 13 innovative concepts. Of these 13 startups, five made it into the final, so-called prototype phase, which ended a few days ago with an official closing event. The innovation competition which was launched in the autumn of 2016 culminated in the presentation of the first fully operational prototypes in Stuttgart-Wangen, where the finalists presented their solutions from the fields of parcel robotics, data-based route planning and management, software- and hardware-based load optimisation and innovative cooling solutions for eGrocery vehicles. As is customary in the startup scene, the five international startups pitched their concepts in front of the attending staff from Mercedes-Benz Vans and demonstrated in impressive style the capabilities which their innovations already offer.
"We are thrilled by the results, and together with the start ups we will now push ahead with the next development steps through to production maturity, with the aim of getting them on the proverbial road," explains Stefan Maurer, head of Future Transportation at Mercedes-Benz Vans. "Cooperation with the startups, the resultant prototypes, the level of commitment - it was all very impressive. And the reactions from the startups and developers also show us that we have found the perfect means of fostering innovation and achieving a win-win situation for the startups and Mercedes-Benz Vans," Maurer continues.
This was the precise aim behind the Mercedes-Benz Vans Startup adVANce Challenge when it was launched in 2016: to generate new ideas for the mobility of the future and to transform these into concrete solutions together with motivated startups from all over the world.
Award for competition's open and transparent approach in "Corporate Startup Stars 2017"
The open co-development approach pursued by Mercedes-Benz Vans has reaped two-fold rewards. In the "Corporate Startup Stars 2017 Awards", a competition initiated by the European Commission's Startup Europe Partnership (SEP) to promote cooperation between startups and companies, in addition to a place among the Top 12 Corporate Startup Stars Mercedes-Benz Vans also scooped the "SEP Open Innovation Innovative Approach Award" for the overall Startup adVANce approach. The jury explained that Mercedes-Benz Vans was singled out for this award by virtue of the open and transparent approach to cooperation with the startups which was demonstrated from the outset.
What sets Mercedes-Benz Vans apart from many other competitors here is its focus on the joint development of new solutions. To this end, the company inputs its own expertise into the entrants' projects, provides extensive insights into its own business and puts contestants in direct contact with customers. In addition, the van manufacturer does not demand any stakes in the companies in return for providing financial support for the projects. "We were seeking a different take that went down new avenues. More direct, more agile and in close touch with reality - that is, our customers," says Tabea Ackva, project manager at Mercedes-Benz Vans. "We are delighted that this approach has been so well received not only by the participating startups, but also by the jury at the SEP Awards," Ackva continues.
The innovation trail continues – Continuation of the Startup adVANce Challenge planned for 2018
The success of the first Challenge bears out the merits of the concept applied by the initiators at Mercedes-Benz Vans, and there are plans for a continuation of the competition next year. The essential modus operandi is to remain the same and the central question of how the future shape of mobility and transport can be defined through the use and combination of intelligent technologies and a holistic approach will also continue to apply. "The challenges which we face will continue to grow in the coming years. It is crucial to seek solutions right now, if customers are to be provided with the best possible means of mastering these challenges in future," stresses Stefan Maurer. Invitations to enter the competition are to be sent out in the summer.